Springdale Town Council “Meet the Candidates” Night

Bill Bassett’s secret plan (see the mayoral “Meet the Candidates” article) was looking good at 6:05 as many fewer people were at the Town Council “Meet the Candidates” night and a full plate of cookies was there on the table. It looked like Bill would be taking home a lot of cookies.

Adrian Player … the appointed Town Council incumbent … and Bill Weyher … currently holding down the chairmanship of the Planning Commission … were there. Bill Bassett explained that candidate Jack Fotheringham had a conflict and couldn’t attend.

Only Mark Chambers from our current administration showed up. Two members of the unelected Planning Commission were in the audience. You may disagree, but I think that says something. And Springdale’s past mayor Bob Ralston was there too. Happy Days are here again! More about that later.

For the record, I like both Bill and Adrian. They’re  good people. It’s going to be hard to make a choice.

In my previous article of the mayoral candidates’ night, I covered each question and answer. I’m not going to do that this time and there are several good reasons. First, it made the article very long. But more importantly, there really wasn’t much difference between Bill Weyher’s and Adrian Player’s answers. The most common phrase all night long was, “I agree … .”  Bill and Adrian even arrived together.

That’s GOOD!! I have always said that we’re friends here.

Instead, I’m going to cover the main points and what they both said, along with my editorial comments. I welcome your comments! Read and post! Just remember rule number 1.

I actually submitted the first question but neither Adrian or Bill understood what I was asking so their answers didn’t answer.

Is there enough communication between Springdale administration and residents.

Both gave essentially the same answer: “No.” And then they both proceeded to complain about it. Adrian provided the most entertaining complaint.

“We’re guided by the General Plan because we don’t get much input. But the General Plan is like the Bible for Springdale. It can be interpreted in many different ways.” Adrian ticked through all the public hearings that were held for the Town budget and said that nobody came. Bill Bassett volunteered that he attended one budget hearing and he will never attend another one. Everybody laughed.

Ain’t funny, McGee!

I’ve devoted quite a bit of space to this issue here. If people don’t go to meetings, even though their personal future is at stake, there has to be more of a reason than just that they don’t want to miss their favorite TV show. I wrote about this problem months ago here: My view about ZiCC Government and Administration.

There is an answer. It’s in a book called, “Citizenville” by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. I personally bought a copy just to donate to the Springdale Town Council.

The reason people don’t go to these meetings is that they feel disempowered. As small as Springdale is and as intimate as our relationship with our local government is, we still feel like nobody’s listening. There is no “conversation”. We need an open, accountable, public conversation.

It’s not the fault of people like Bill and Adrian and the other Council and Commission members. They’re all working hard and they’re all committed to making Springdale a better place. We have what a consultant would call a “structural problem”. Blaming citizens for not showing up at meetings won’t solve it.

We need different, better ways to communicate. I started this web site to try to find one.

Should town employees be required to live in Springdale? What about requiring businesses to provide employee housing?

There was quite a bit of discussion about whether housing was, or should be, supplied by hotels for employees.  Both Adrian and Bill agreed that it would be wonderful if we could convince people who work here to live here (especially police) but that it would be very expensive. Both pointed out some limited ways that Springdale was trying to solve the problem. They talked about how our school might disappear because a commercial resort town just isn’t as attractive to families too. In the end, no real answers came out.

I think they’re missing the point. When problems are considered one at a time and not in an overall context of what is happening to Springdale, this is the result. Rick and the rest of our professional staff have the responsibility for running the town day to day. The Council and the Planning Commission should be focused on these larger issues. And so should the rest of us.

But that gets us back to communication, doesn’t it?

Are town employees paid too much?

Ah, blessed be Bob Ralston or we would have died of boredom.

Bob Ralston is a former mayor of Springdale and his administration was distinguished by communication that was … ummmm … perhaps a little too free and open. I recall reading “news of the weird” articles about Council meetings in the Salt Lake Tribune before I moved here.

But there’s a good side. You probably remember the story about the elephant in the living room that nobody would talk about. Well … Bob talked about it. I give Bill Bassett a lot of credit for handling this very well. He let Bob make his point pretty thoroughly before he politely but firmly said that the candidates needed a chance to answer.

Bob pointed out that surrounding towns like Kanab, Cedar City, and Panguitch don’t pay their people nearly as much as we pay ours with the clear implication that we’re being ripped off.

Adrian said that the salary of town employees is posted in the post office right now. (I didn’t know that! But I did know what everyone is being paid because it’s also online: Utah Public Salaries.) Again, both candidates were in agreement that we had good people and we pay them well, but fairly.

I was actually in the Town Council meeting years ago when Rick Wixom first presented his system for determining town salaries. Rick convinced the Town to subscribe to a service where comparable salaries are surveyed and compared to ours just to make sure that we have a solid case when this question comes up. (And it will come up. It always does.)

When I was a manager of software development for a large corporation, we subscribed to a very similar system for a lot of the same reasons. It’s a good idea. On the other hand, since I was responsible for answering this question in a very personal way for a couple of decades, I know what the flaws are too. (I decided how much my staff got paid.)

One is the definition of what “comparable” is. Springdale is not comparable to Kanab, Cedar City, or Panguitch. We have unique problems that it takes special skills to manage. That doesn’t mean we have to pay our people more. But it does mean that we need to be damn careful to make sure we know what special skills are needed and that our people have those special skills.

Another is illustrated by a gag line from the radio show, Prairie Home Companion: “All our children are above average.” Nobody wants to be just average and certainly not below average. Comparing salaries to some statistical average is a guaranteed salary inflation mechanism over time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, the devil is, indeed, in the details. These surveys use a lot of details like qualifications, professional memberships, years of experience, training, etc., that tend to jack up the “average” salary that someone “should” get. Some details are relevant. Some are not. At its worst, a service like this can be used to manipulate the system. At its best, it can guarantee a base level of competence.

The bottom line is that nothing can replace hard-nosed, good judgment about what we’re paying and what we get for it. No system can replace that. If we’re making a mistake at all, it’s that we have turned the entire problem over to a system rather than managing it ourselves because it’s just too hard. There’s nothing wrong with the whole community making their own judgment about what we get for our money. That’s why these salaries are public.

But that gets us back to communication, doesn’t it?

My own “seat of the pants” judgment … without a public conversation it’s difficult to do more than that … is that we are paying a little more than we would have to pay, but we can afford it and it’s not really a problem for us. We’re not WalMart. We shouldn’t be paying people the lowest salary possible. We should be able to attract the best. We have bigger problems that need solutions. This is a great example of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This ain’t broke yet.

What about parking? Should we have a town parking facility?

This was one of the very few cases where Adrian and Bill actually disagreed. Adrian said that the town ought to consider parking meters and that we should not involve the town in a public parking facility. Bill said we ought to at least consider a parking facility. Bill also said that nobody is likely to build a parking facility because they can make more money with land if they build a hotel on it.

I agree strongly with Bill. This is a classic case of an economic problem called, “The Tragedy of the Commons”. Nobody will solve a problem that is everybody’s problem at their own individual expense. If we take Adrian’s approach, this will simply continue to be a problem until there are no cars anymore. There are legitimate functions of government and this is one of them.

Sorry, Adrian, but I think you’re falling back on the “small government is good government” argument just a little too much here. Sometimes small government isn’t good government.

Is Absentee ownership a problem?

This is another one of my questions. Like my other question, I don’t think Bill and Adrian even understood what I was asking. I ached to engage in a conversation about it right then and there. But that is seldom a good idea in a meeting like this one. (See my article.) I decided to wait and try again to start a public conversation in this article.

Both candidates said that because absentee owners still pay their taxes and don’t cause other problems, it’s not a problem.

That isn’t the point! The problem is that these people are not part of our community. They don’t take part in community events. They don’t know us. We don’t know them. As far as we (and they) are concerned, we’re just a vacation hotel, except that they own a nicer room.

I worked on the trail Springdale built. I helped shovel sand off the dog park. Did any absentee owners help? I doubt it. If Springdale, for example, can’t supply water anymore, these people will just sell their property at a loss and go somewhere else. They won’t feel any obligation to help solve the problem.

The problem is that we need to be a community or the uniqueness that is Springdale will disappear.

But that gets us back to communication, doesn’t it?

How do you plan to keep Springdale’s economy strong?

Adrian used this as an opportunity to talk about how the Town Council was working hard to moderate the economic hit of the Park shutdown. (And they are! I was there.) Bill said we have no control over, “what those idiots in Washington will do. But it will pass.” He’s right.

If you’re a hotel owner in Springdale, your quarterly results are going to be pretty dismal next time. But we have a goose that lays golden eggs. All we have to do is make sure we don’t kill the goose. (Credit to Mavis Madsen for this. Mavis, won’t you consider running for Council again? Pretty Please!!)

But, again, both candidates didn’t even see the main point. May I politely ask, “Did you read Tom Dansie’s Future of Springdale survey? I’m not sure who asked this question, but Springdale residents want their town back and we’re not that hot on pumping up more economic growth.

Adrian made the point that was the capper of the evening for me. He said that the Town Council has a plan to talk to all of the business owners individually to make sure we’re addressing their problems.


We have just over 500 permanent residents. If you count that as just households, we might have more businesses.


But that gets us back to communication, doesn’t it?

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